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tv   Tech Know  Al Jazeera  October 16, 2013 1:30pm-2:01pm EDT

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al jazeera. i'm del walters. "techknow" is up next. and the dow smiling as washington and wall street are now on the same page. hello and welcome. i'm phil torres to talk about innovations that can change lives. we're going to explore hardware and humanity in a unique way. this is a show about science by scientists. let's check out our team of hard-core nerds. tonight she's on the front lines of a devastating wildfire as a drone takes command of the skies over yosemite. crystal is a molecular neuroscience. she goes to the streets of seattle and santa cruz for a look at how science might stop crime before it happens. lindsay is an ex-cia operator. tonight she shows us how
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mushrooms might one day replace styrofoam packages. i'm phil torres and i'm an entomologist. i study insects in the rain forests of peru. that's our team. now, let's do some science. it has been another fantastic week of science on the road. we've got crystal, lindsay and rita here. we're going to start with you. you were basically a very high-tech firefighter for a week. tell me about this. >> that's right. i was on a story that followed how we use unmanned aircraft to fight the rim fire at yosemite. let me show you. here it is. it's a very unusual-looking piece of technology.
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it almost looks like an alien insect, and they have it in a hangar. essentially they fly it up to yosemite, and it's eyes in the sky following the rim fire and generating information for action on the ground. so let's check it out. the size and scope of the massive wildfire burning in yosemite national park is staggering. at its peak 5100 firefighters were fighting a blaze larger than the city of chicago at a cost of nearly $100 million. the fire that is destroying hundreds of square miles of wildlife habitat and sensitive eco-systems, california's third largest fire in history was sparked by a hunter's illegal campfire. for assistance, firefighters turn to the u.s. military for help. ca called into service is the mq-1 predator, an unmanned drone. after becoming a household name following tours in iraq and
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afghanistan, the predator is california fire's important eye in the sky. this remotely piloted aircraft starts the daily mission at an unassuming airfield east of los angeles. it's a completely unusual piece of technology. it looks like a strange alien bug. it's extremely arrerodynamic and sleek-looking, but also comes from almost a different planet. >> it's the mq-1 predator. it has a propeller versus a jet engine. the wingspan on this aircraft is approximately 55 feet long. it's bigger than your average general aviation plane. >> i see one camera here and one here. two cameras, one stacked on top of another. >> and then this one, you have the mts ball, which has multiple cameras. he can control it and move it. >> what are the different specs on the cameras? are they intended for different purposes? >> different uses.
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there's basically a daytime camera, a nighttime camera, an infrared camera that detects body heat and temperature. >> is the sensor ball the most expensive piece on the equipme equipment? >> it is. i don't know the exact numbers, but the cost of the ball is approximately half the cost of the aircraft. >> so this is the aircraft that's actually launching today? >> this is the aircraft that's launching. my crew are doing their preflight checks, and they work with the pilot. the make sure the plane is in working order before it takes off. >> it will take off at 6:00 a.m. where will it go? >> we're tasked to fly up to the fire area and check out the fire as its burning. >> how long will it stay up? >> we have a full fuel load, and it can stay up over 20 hours. >> so where are we headed now? >> this is where the pilots and operator since when they control the aircraft. >> this is the cockpit, essentially?
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>> you have the pilot on the left-hand side and the operator sits on the right-hand side. the screen is what's actually coming from the aircraft. >> they're flying the aircraft right now? >> exactly. >> so that sensor ball we saw is operating? >> that's correct. >> the mq-1 is up in the air right now headed off to yosemite. there will be a hand-off to the air force base. for the past three weeks, captain jeremy salzoni has been living at march air reserve base. he's embedded to coordinate the intelligence provided by the mq-1. tell me about the magnitude of the fire in yosemite? >> the accessibility makes it complicated and why its grown to the size it has. with the inaccessibility around the entire area of the fire, it makes getting from one point to another very difficult. now within 30 seconds there it is.
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the information is so rapid and accurate and immediate that it's kind of hard to believe that i ever walked these things in the past. we're able to watch realtime information. i can see where the fire is and what it's doing, potentially hazards come uppiing up and maybe advantageous areas to get the firefighters to. >> that potentially life-saving information is being put to use here. >> really, big operation here. >> at the california rim fire's incident command center near yosemite national park. >> this is the air national guard mobile emergency operation center we rolled out here in order to help facilitate coordination and command and control of remotely piloted aircraft operations here in incident. this is where all the magic happens. >> all right. >> it can throw embers up to as much of a mile ahead of it. we do a wide scan first, and we zoom in on any heat signatures we find. one of the biggest advantages
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was the able to geolocate the fire line. infrared imagery has been around for a while, but to transit those to us here, we can transfer them to a map and make it readily available invaluable. >> we're looking at the full-motion video from the mq-1 predator. in this picture right here, you can see how the smoke is masking the fire, so it's hard to determine where the fire line actually is. here he's now blended in that infrared on top of the day tv. now we can clearly see where the fire line actually is. >> captain, how do you feel about how this went? >> i think it was a huge success. i've seen some violent things, but i'm not sure i've ever seen anything more violent than how strong this fire was, how much it was crowning, how fast it was moving, and how difficult it was for folks to contain. i believe 100% that we made a
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huge difference. >> what has access to this technology brought to you firefighting effort? >> i'd have to give you the primaries of life safety. the ability to keep an eye on the men and women fighting the fire. in regards to firefighting safety and firefighting, ink we're scratching the surface as far as the potential. what i love is it actually works, you know. this was kind of a test run, but it really helped those people on the ground. >> it goes beyond firefighting for sure. search and rescue. there's all sorts of cool applications. >> given the stigma around drones, how willing was the military to work with you on the story and forthcoming with the information? >> they were completely open and super helpful. they were very excited and seemed to jump at the opportunity to shed this technology in a different light. >> we're going from one type of
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hot spot to a completely different type of hot spot. >> my idea was identifying hotspots of criminal activity. so it's kind of like the plot line of a holewood movie. they're using innovative new technology to predict when and where crime will occur. i got to ride along with two different police departments to see how it works. >> that sounds really cool. we'll check it out when we come back. we want to hear what you think about the story. join the conversation by
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(vo) al jazeera america we understand that every news story begins and ends with people. >> the efforts are focused on rescuing stranded residents. (vo) we pursue that story beyond the headline, past the spokesperson, to the streets. >> thousands of riot police deployed across the capitol. (vo) we put all of our global resources behind every story.
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>> it is a scene of utter devastation. (vo) and follow it no matter where it leads, all the way to you. al jazeera america. take a new look at news. welcome back, guys. crystal you were about to take us on the most awesomely nerdy
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police ride-along ever. >> it was nerdy. i went to two different police departments and go along with their officers and their new secret weapon to fight crime is a computer. the computer was influencing where we went, and when we got there, we saw interesting stuff. so let's take a look. >> roll call, santa cruz police department. the calm before the storm. >> it's coming around and taking us to the map, please. i appreciate it. >> our crime stats are showing the efforts you guys are making, and overall year-to-date right now we're down 12% on overall crime. >> as the men and women of day shift lock, load and hit the road, they're armed with an entirely new type of law enforcement weapon. >> all right. where are we going? >> the ability to predict where crime is going to occur. we rolled out with them to see how it works. >> so downstairs here this is where we house the operations
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division of the police department. >> deputy chief steve clark is a 20-year veteran of the santa cruz police department. he knows want -- the place inside and out. he also knows where it needs to go in the future, a knowledge that led him to an innovative predicting software called pretzel. >> at that time we remember focusing on vehicle burglaries as well as stolen cars, and we found the model was incredibly accurate at predicting the times and locations where these crimes were likely to occur. at that point we realize we have something here. >> at first it sounds a bit like minority report. the tom cruise movie in which a futuristic police unit apprehending criminals based on spooky preknowledge. >> the computer takes into effect actual incidents reported. it doesn't know anything about the demographics about the individuals in that area, what the economic status is of these individuals or anything about the person.
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it's all area-specific. >> today, fred has more than a toy to tinker in. it's the main law enforcement tool in their arsenal. >> looking at today on day shift, this is an actual life map of where we think the predictive zones are for auto theft today. now, the orange dots represent where we have had actual auto thefts. what's interesting is as you look at the map, you see locations where we've had auto theft, but there's no boxes around them. that's what the program does for us. the algorithm weighs those and lets us know if that's a significant thing we need to be concerned about for this shift. >> for me, i have an academic science background, so data is king. what do you think of police work, you think of guys going with their gut and using instinct to kind of motive where they would be patrolling and that type of thing. what is your response and what have you learned from using it? >> we're not telling you how to do police work.
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we're telling you where are the best locations to be at any given time in the day and police what you see. >> police what you see. as it turns out, when you know what to look for and more importantly where to look for it, you can see a lot. it looks like there's a hotspot in this neighborhood area, seabright and murray street. should we check that out? >> yeah. let's take a look at seabright and murray. here's a car we're coming on right here. i have people sitting in this car in this neighborhood. why on earth would anybody sit in a car in a neighborhood? watch their reaction to me. what's going on, guys? >> not much. >> hey. >> how are you? >> good, how about you? >> we're good, man. cruising through the neighborhood. do you live here? >> no. >> i work at the boardwalk. >> what do you do down there, man? what do you supervise? >> rides. >> rides. very good. all right, man. you didn't look like you lived here, man. i didn't recognize you. that's why i'm stopping. >> have a good day. >> you, too.
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>> thank you. >> there you go. i can't describe it to you, but there was something about the way that they reacted today -- >> now they're leaving. >> now we have an open car door right here. i've got an open gate on this house as well. so we're going to get out and look at this. hi, police department. >> hi. >> hey, i was just -- is that your car sitting out there with your door open? >> yeah, we just came open. >> i was just concerned and saw it sitting there and the gate was standing open. >> thank you. we just got home. >> we're patrolling the neighborhood. your house is right in the middle of the zone. >> in the first year santa cruz p.d. saw assaults down 9%, burglaries down 11%, and robberies down 27%. meanwhile, auto theft recovery was up 22% and arrests were up 56%. we've seen how santa cruz is pioneering the future of police work, and this is already spreading to other cities across
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the country. for the past three months the seattle p.d. has been prpting the new software into its patrol. >> i think any police agency is based on culture. you know, we're tied to our past, and this is sort of a paradigm shift in how officers have done policing. before it was random patrol and go find something, right? so you're successful if you write that ticket and make an arrest, but in this if you're out there and your presence alone dissueding a criminal from successful. >> for all the agencies using predpol, it's about combining innovation with instinct and ringing up results. >> it's amazing what you see, the things that pop out, too, the anomalies that start to draw your attention. i'm looking at this guy right now across the street. he has his up and downs about
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three-quarters of the way down, and he's walking through this business district. we're going to stop and talk with him, actually. what's going on, man? >> nothing. >> what are we doing? how much have you had to drink today? >> i don't drink. >> what is your drug of choice? >> marijuana. >> you looked like you used something more. hands behind your back. >> i just told you, officer, the truth. >> a little episodic here. >> we're here in the hotspot and your instincts kicked in and he exhibited suspicious behavior. we talked with him, and that's when you start to get clues. >> he is really sort of the type of person that we need to be contacting and working in the policing system. it was the marriage of science right there as well as intuition and instinct and that good old gut feeling we talked about. that's exactly what we saw play out right here. >> it's easy to see from predpol is popular with the santa cruz
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p.d. and gaining traction with other law enforcement agencies. in fairness, we did come across more than just the bad guys. >> it's amazing what you could see in a neighborhood by simply -- there's my two daughters. hey, you guys. what are you doing? >> shopping. >> you want to say hi? they're going to totally give me grief about it. >> that was super cool. how did you feel doing that? >> the really cool thing i thought about the use of the predictive policing model is not it helps us predict crime, but it gets the officers in the areas where they're needed so they can make connections with people that live in the neighborhood or shopkeepers in those high crime areas. that's helping them do more than just make arrests. >> so it's like computers are like connecting the police to the community. really cool to see kind of similar to the story how this use of technology with, you know, police or firefighters is actually making us safer. it's a nice thing.
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lindsay, your story is a little different. >> mine's totally different. when the producers said i would do a story on two young guys experimenting with mushrooms, i had a very different ideas of what this story was going to be. i'll tell you all about it when we come back. >> we'll check that all out that's all i have an real money. victoria azarenko
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welcome back to "tech know." they're telling us awesome science stories for the week. linds lindsay, you were hanging out with two dudes experiments with shrooms. tell me about this. >> i got to do to upstate new york and meet with these guys who are revolutionizing the way we think about packaging goods. >> you know, every cubic inch of this soil right here is teaming with millions of inches of
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mycilium and all around us fungi is everywhere. >> when you're with two geniuses, you're sure to stumble on something scientifically complex. >> you can see the mycilium growing directly into the log. >> chances are it somehow involves a mushroom. >> we're here at incubative designs and i'm one of the scientists at this revolutionary newbie yo materials companies where we take local farm waste and mix it with tissue from mushrooms and growing replacements for plastic foams that are used in protective packaging. >> why is this so important? what's the problem with styrofoam? >> there's about $10 billion to $20 billion of styrofoam products used globals.
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it's not like plastics equals bad. they're fundamentally uncompatible with the earth's biosphere. >> we've all seen this before. almost every big product we buy comes packaged in this material. these are made from unsustainable petro chemicals, and it can take up to a million years, maybe more, for this material to biodegrade and leave the earth. >> we use a combination of agriculture waste like corn husks and mushrooms as a resin and combine them together and grow them in a mold to make a shape from everything from packaging to auto parts. a mushroom growing out of the side of tree is comprised out of mycillium. if you look in the tree structure, you find a vast network of these strands, little fibers growing through the soil of the environment as well as in trees. that's what's really fueling the mushrooms onto the side of the
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tree or to the forest floor. >> do you guys grow your own mushrooms? >> we never grow mushrooms. we keep it in a vegetative growth stage where it's making more root structure. >> the initial concept of using mushrooms as a resin was inspieshed through holding them together. the combination was agricultural waste as a food stock didn't come up later until i teamed up with gavin. >> it takes close to seven days for a product to grow from beginning to completion, but we'll show you how it works in second. the waste is first cleaned right before adding the macillium and gets incubated for two to three days and it's a solid, white mass. next it goes through a trauma, a machine that grinds the waste. this is reminding me of willie wonka and the chocolate factory, and i'm afraid i'll get sucked up. grinding it into a mulch so it
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can be packed into the molds. the molds are then stacked and left for another three days where the mysillium does what it does. it grows. you have to bake it to stunt the growth so it can be sold to corporations like dell computers and other fortune 500 companies. here's what's really cool about mushroom packaging. i can take this packaging material and actually bury it in my yard. within a couple of months it will biodegrade and add valuable nutrients to the soil. they're about to begin large scale manufacture of plastic-free products, and the possibilities go far beyond protective packaging. they're now developing home insulation. >> welcome to the tiny house. >> so what is the tiny nows? >> our tiny house is both walls are filled with mushroom insulation.
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the insulation and structure of the wall. >> what was really impressive about these mushroom building materials was their resistance to fire. >> don't try this at home, kids. whoa. >> it will keep burning for a while. as you can see, it's not exactly the safest thing to have in your house. we have an open flame on this for a few minutes before it actually becomes any danger. >> that's amazing. >> the mycilium acts as a fire retard retardant. overall, you have more time to get out of the house. >> do you feel like you're having an impact on humanity? >> yeah. really, we see this as looking forward centuries, not just days. we want to make sure that this environment is available for our grandchildren and our grandchildren's children and that we're talking best use of the natural resources provided us today.
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>> i absolutely love that story. they are two guys like changing the world using fungi. >> they are, and both of them and everybody that works at ecovative that fungi can completely change the way that we package materials and that there are millions of other applications, too. >> it was really interesting. i was looking at the home insulation, and i was wondering about that application. the problem is is that it's biodegradable. dust eats it, and i'm not sure i want things eating my home. >> that's true. that's something they're working with and adapt the materials. it's designed by nature, which i think is totally, totally cool. >> amazing stories, you guys. it was cool to hear about forest fires, police work and fungi. they're all really fascinating.
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check back with us next week on "tech know" for awesome cool science. dive deep into the stories and go behind the scenes at aljazeera.com/ajtechknow.
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>> hello and welcome to the news hour. here are your top stories. iran offers concessions in its nuclear program after two days of talks with western powers. and u.s. democrats and republicans argue over the budget to avoid a debt topple